With respect to the theological view of the question: This is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically, but I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice... On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.Charles Darwin, in a letter to Asa Gray - botanist and Darwin's lifelong friend - 22 May 1860
Some lovely Radiolab stuff enhancing my research into parasitoid wasps. It's such a vast and daunting area full of thousands of species that it's very hard to embrace the zoology fully. I've been doing some sketches (and models - above) and trying to get to the route of what in the process is actually interesting. The Darwin quote above is pretty much from on high - the process and the life cycle of the parasitoid wasp is so vulgar and upsetting to most that it's hard to consider it anything but 'wrong.'
There's something horrific about the aesthetics of the wasp as well as the moral questions it poses. The automatic reaction to wasps in humans is one of revulsion - they're largely seen as aggressive, useless and dangerous. They have a mean sting, but unlike the bumble bee, the great pollinator, friend of nature, they don't suffer for it. Nor does the wasp appear to perform any function in the greater cycles of the garden or the field. The common wasp falls into the genera vespula or dolichovespula, so loathed are they that they're one of the most numerously mimicked species. Some research even suggests they can remember human faces and will mark them for aggressive behaviour.
The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. [...] I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.Ash, Alien (1979)
The xenomorph from the Alien series of films was even based on a combination of the life cycles of parasitoid wasps and social wasps in quite possibly the most damning condemnation of the wasp in human conscience.
There's some strange balances though: Parasitoid wasps are one of the widest used biological pest controllers. Each species targets one specific host. So farmers use them as a non-chemical way of eliminating crop consumers - once the hosts are all dead, the wasps die too in a cycle of perverse incentive.
They also have incredible smell, up to 99% more accurate than sniffer dogs, and there are already early developments of the Wasp Hound (above), a device that uses wasps to detect trace chemicals of drugs, explosives or even cancer. They use this smell to detect hosts from kilometers away. They can also count up to five.
When they deposit they're eggs in the host, they inject a virus that also genetically reprograms the host to stop it's immune defences attacking the eggs and in some cases trick it into defending them. There's something so elegant about this system that on studying them, it actually becomes quite hard to feel the same revulsion towards them.
So it's in this balance between elegance and revulsion, between godliness and evil that this animal and it's complex life lies. The question then is how this can be scaled-up or be adapted to a medium in design that I can then use to talk about the original ideas around naturalistic fallacy and moral codes in the aesthetics of nature.